The story of the people who sailed the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Hawai‘i, Samoa, and points beyond is well documented, yet historians have neglected the voyages themselves and what the travelers encountered on the five-day to five-week journeys to their destinations. Those who crossed the Pacific recorded their thoughts about the sea creatures they discovered, the birds that followed the ships, and the potential of American expansion to the islands. They gossiped about their shipmates, celebrated the change in time zones, and feared the sharks that swam near the vessels. The voyagers had little else to distract them from the many miles of endless water, so they paid attention to their surroundings: nature, people, and shipboard activities. The adventures on the ships enlivened their travels to the islands of the Pacific and proved to be an opportunity to expand their personal horizons, as well as their hopes for the United States.
The South Seas from the Deck of a Steamship: Travelers’ Observations of Their Journeys to the Islands of the Pacific, 1880s–1910s
Diana L. Ahmad is a Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. She has published two books with the University of Nevada Press, The Opium Debate and Chinese Exclusion Laws in the Nineteenth-Century American West (2007) and Success Depends on the Animals: Emigrants, Livestock, and Wild Animals on the Overland Trails, 1840–1869 (2016), as well as several articles about U.S. involvement in American Samoa, Hawai‘i, and Guam. Ahmad has been awarded the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, the Presidential Engagement Fellowship for the University of Missouri System, and the Outstanding Teaching Award (eleven times). Currently, she is working on the treatment of horses on the overland trails in the mid-nineteenth century.
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Diana L. Ahmad; The South Seas from the Deck of a Steamship: Travelers’ Observations of Their Journeys to the Islands of the Pacific, 1880s–1910s. California History 1 August 2021; 98 (3): 78–96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ch.2021.98.3.78
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